In January, I made an annual trip "home" to California. It was one of the strangest that I have ever made. There to attend a conference, I had added extra days to meet up with old friends. In the end, because of a locally resurgent Covid wave and the "Monsoons of '23" raging outside, I spent almost the entire week sitting in a San Francisco hotel room watching waterfalls cascading down the steeply sloping sidewalks below.
Searching for something to do, I started looking through the folders stored on the laptop that I carry when travelling. When shooting out of town, it is here that images are first downloaded at the close of a shooting day. Everything is eventually transferred to my home system at the end of trips, but occasionally I leave folders on the laptop, just in case I find time to do some random editing while traveling. Suddenly, carrying folders of old files around on my laptop had been justified.
Of a dozen folders archived on the laptop, the oldest was almost 9 years old. Casually browsing through that folder, I came across an image that was unfamiliar. It had been almost a decade since I'd taken these shots in the hills above Santa Cruz; I was pleased at being able to review the images with such fresh eyes.
Then I came across another unfamiliar image. And another. These were images of Willi, a published model from years back; I was very familiar with our entire body of work. Or so I though.
As I scanned the folder I realized that I had just uncovered an entire cache of images that had never been imported into the model's lightroom catalog. Feverishly, I started looking for new images to edit.
We had initially released our work with Willi in 2015 and published a compendium of
of our work with him under the title Willi-The Private Portfolio. It was a less "complete" collection than I had realized. When I finally transferred the files to the home system, I discovered that there were 806 new, never-before-seen images of Willi to add to our body of work.
Editing photos of sun-drenched bodies around California swimming pools is a great way to spend winter days. As I worked on updating Willi-The Private Portfolio, I recalled the several days we had spent working with the Bay Area grad student. First, in New York, on a trip the model had made back east. A year later we scheduled additional sessions with him on one of the studio's first trips to California.
Willi's first session in New York marked the first time that Alex Bustamante worked as an assistant at a shoot. At 23 (and a few years younger than the model), his confidence level was fairly weak. . .at least compared to a year later when we worked with Willi in California. The model took note and took markedly more interest in the assistant than he had a year before. By the second day of shooting in Santa Cruz, the models had bonded.
I remember their laughing over Willi's tale of biking home up San Francisco's Market Street one summer day when he decided to complete the bike ride in the nude. He turned a number of heads but raised few eyebrows in jaded San Francisco. Willi's session ended but we continued shooting as they played together in the pool and hot tub.
At the time, we had little use of for the photos of the two models together (to this day, such work is not generally part of our portfolio) but we have decided to upload a series of photos of Willi and Alex to a new public gallery. The photos are delightful studio mementos of a summer day in 2014. I suspect they might evoke more poignant responses from the models; blissful memories of an intense, fleeting episode when their paths briefly crossed. I hope the viewers enjoy them as much.
Longtime fans of Willi will be happy to hear that there is a new, expanded edition of Willi's Private Portfolio. The original version was 56 pages long. The 2023 version has 80 images of this exotic, part Filipino, part Mexican, part German (and all-American) stud.
WILLI'S PRIVATE PORTFOLIO (2023)
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Bond retired from modeling with a 3-day extravaganza of a photoshoot. These are the images from his last afternoon and evening as a model. The final work of a 5-year career. 60 images, NSFW. Hard copy magazines or instantly-downloadable PDFs.